Renault's newest hot hatch, the stove hot 184kW Mégane RS (Renaultsport) 250, broke cover at the recent 2009 Frankfurt motor show -- and now comes word it's coming to Australia in 2010 to do battle with the Golf R and Mazda3 MPS.
We can confirm that the high performance hatch has been given the green light for Australian delivery, with the first arrivals of the Mégane RS 250 scheduled for late 2010, after the new model Clio RS 200 arrives mid-way through the year.
Renault Australia's managing director, Rudi Koenig, told the Carsales Network that "only the high performance 'RS' versions of the Mégane and Clio" will be sold here. That means the volume models in the Clio and Mégane range -- including the Mégane Sport Tourer (wagon) -- will not make the journey to Australia, limiting the French brands range and reach locally.
"It's a hard sell in this segment," commented Koenig of the Mégane wagon.
The new-look Mégane RS 250 has a design that is best described as progressive, featuring a sporty coupe-like profile that is eschews its predecessors 'unique' boot treatment. It gets a new front fascia with a wider air intake, LED daytime running lights, flared wheel arches, a new rear bumper with air diffuser and central exhaust pipe.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine outputting 184kW at 5500rpm and 340Nm of torque at 1900rpm, the front-wheel drive coupe is claimed to charge from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds -- on par with the Mazda3 MPS.
Power is transferred from the engine to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and as Renault's new performance pin-up boy, the Mégane RS 250 takes the performance hot hatch to the next level, featuring a Nissan GT-R inspired data-feedback system called the Renaultsport Monitor.
Simply put, it can display various telemetry (such as power and torque outputs) in real time via digital readouts on the dashboard. Everything from turbo pressure to brake function, engine power and torque data, a lap timer with memory function and even transverse and longitudinal G-force readouts can be displayed while driving, with menu navigation via steering wheel controls.
The instruments are traditional analogue dials for the speedometer and tachometer plus there's a light that indicates when best to change gear - then a secondary audio warning that alerts the driver to the rev-limiters imminence if you keep pushing the engine.
Standard features include cruise control, Brembo brakes, Renaultsport Dynamic Management ESP system with several settings, eight airbags, automatic door locking, Renault keycard, 60W RDS MP3-compatible CD player with fingertip control, Bluetooth and RCA connection, ISOFIX child seat mountings and rear parking sensors.
Other standard features include leather upholstery, heated, electrically adjustable driver's seat with memory function, automatic wipers and lights, dual-zone climate control, tinted rear and side windows, tyre pressure monitoring and Multi-functional TunePoint. Recaro front seats are optional.
Like the Clio RS, there is a Cup suspension pack that adds an LSD, stiffer dampers, springs and an anti-roll bar, grooved disc rotors and satin black wheels with upgraded French tyres.
Along with a super-direct 14.75:1 steering ratio, the Mégane RS 250 hatch sits on 225/40 R18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx TT tyres. The sportier 'Cup' model gets slightly wider, grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres with 235/40 R18 profiles.
Renault also offers a third tyre type: optional 19-inch alloy rims for both chassis setups, shod with Continental Sport Contact 5 Performance in low profile 235/35 R19.
Brembo brake calipers are standard, working 340mm vented discs at the front and the 290mm solid discs are the rear (Cup models gain grooved discs).
Of interest to weekend racers will be the new Renaultsport Dynamic Management system that gives drivers three stability and traction control options. 'On' is the standard setting with all systems running, 'Sport' reduces ESP's intervention point, while 'Off' is the track day option, which shuts down all electronic driving aids.
Furthermore, when the 'Sport' mode is selected and optioned with the Renaultsport Monitor telemetry system, drivers will be able to choose from five accelerator pedal maps to fine tune right-foot response: linear, normal, snow, sport and extreme.
Koenig didn't reveal if Australia would recieve both spec levels of the Mégane RS, leaving those details until closer to the launch date.
The news the new Mégane and Clio RS models are on the way is good news for the French brand. Renault has had a tough 2009 in Australia, with sales down just over 20 per cent, year-to-date. While other brands have copped similar sales blows during the financial downturn, given the lower base Renault started from the drop is significant.
According to the latest VFacts sales figures released in September the company has only sold 1875 new cars this year. Renault's biggest seller so far in 2009 the Koleos, which has sold 811 units year to date. The second most popular model is the Kangoo commercial vehicle with 455 sales year to date.
The new Mégane couldn't come at a better time with the figures showing the model is down a staggering 78.6 per cent year-to-date and was down 76 per cent for September. Renault's midsize Laguna range is also failing to gain traction locally with only 53 examples sold so far in 2009. That's well short of the initial target of 200 units for the year.
But despite only 220 new Renault's finding homes last month, Koenig dismissed talk that the brand was on the way out of the Australian market declaring that Renault was "here to stay" in Australia.
"You don't introduce new models to the market if you don't plan on staying around," he added.
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